On Friday, the Supreme Court outlined a set of guidelines that direct the apex court benches to heed pleas challenging decisions of the high court sanctioning death sentences in six months. This came in against the backdrop of growing demands for speedy decision making in unusual cases of heinous crimes.
The Supreme Court said, “In matters wherein the HC has confirmed/upheld the death penalty, and this court has granted leave, the criminal appeals will be listed for hearing not later than six months before the three-judge bench from the date of grant of leave irrespective of the fact that the appeal is ready or not.”
In the past, the SC agreed to the appeals of the four Nirbhaya case convicts against their death sentence on 15th March 2014 and finally upheld capital punishment on 5th May 2017.
A similar scenario can be considered in the Sonia and Sanjeev case, who had killed seven family members over a property dispute. The matter had been severely delayed in the Supreme Court after they had challenged the death sentence.
Similarly, in the case of Ravi, who was a rapist and a murderer of a minor girl, his death penalty was merely reduced to life imprisonment after three years by the Supreme Court.
Another case of Shabnam, who with her lover had killed six members of her family, including a 10-month-old, for property reasons, after her appeal against HC’s decision of the death penalty, took the SC two years.
Keeping in mind these delays in delivering judgments on time, the Supreme Court framed these guidelines.
The SC said, “As soon as the special leave petition involving the death penalty is filed, a communication from the SC registry may be sent… for the summoning of original case records within 60 days from the filing of such appeal.”
After the Supreme Court accepts to hearing of the appeals, the parties would be provided 30 days durations to present any other document. This, in turn, will prevent the appellant’s counsel from appealing for adjournment hearing, repeatedly.
In case of the death penalty, the guidelines state, it would be scheduled before the chamber judges and not SC registrars like that of now.